The metamorphosis of Thadathagai – the three breasted Queen of Madurai

Recently i was searching for some specific pictures of an early Pandyan cave in Thiruparankundram, hence had made an appeal for viewers near madurai to help with pictures. One of my friends Smt. Shoba Ramakrishnan sent me her collection but it was from the famed Madurai Meenakshi Amman temple. While going through it – i came across this Gem of a sculpture. Initially I was bit hesitant to publish this post, for it concerned usage of certain sensitive ( in these days) descriptions and some explicit sculpture. But was emboldened by the strength of the legend and the need to explain a sculpture as it is. So inorder to prepare myself in advance for any backlash, i tried to seek assistance from friends on authentic texts – found the Thiruvilaiyaadal puranam authored by Paranjyothi Munivar

Ok, enough of beating around the bush – today we are going to see the sculpture and the story behind the three breasted Queen of Madurai – a name so synonymous with the city that the very mention of her name or the city – brings up the other.

Since the legend is long and well known – starting off with the sculpture first. How would a sculptor show a three breasted maiden, who should be ravishingly beautiful, full of pride bordering on manliness, majestic as a ruler, yet befit the title of the future consort of shiva – add to this her fame as the fish eyed one. Simple task for our master sculptor.

Enjoy the sculpture first

Now we go to the legend, the Pandyan King Malayadhwaja was a great devotee of Shiva and Shakti. Despite this, the couple were unhappy that they did not have any issues and as a King, he had to have a male heir to continue running the Kingdom. Hence, King Malayadhwaja along with his wife Kanchanamala perform a penance. From the great yaga, a three year old girl comes out of the fire. The child was ‘Ayonija’ (not born out of the womb). However, the King was shocked to see that she had three breasts. He pleads that he has been a devote follower and done the penance according to strict rules, yet he has been blessed not with a boy but with girl and she too with three breasts. Just then a divine voice is heard

“Don’t fear. Whatever has taken place is for good only. You bring up this child like a man. Whatever education and training is given for a man, all such education may be given to this child. Name her Thadathagai ( endowed with irresistible valour) When she sees the man who is to be her husband, the third breast will disappear. ”

Since she had eyes shaped beautifully like fishes (Meena) she was called Meenakshi. She grew to be a very beautiful young woman despite her birth defect. After the Kings’ demise, she ruled the country herself – Her valor was unparalleled and she wa unmatched in battle. Kingdom after kingdom fell to her might till she had no one else to conquer by Shiva himself. Destiny drove her on and she marched with her massive army to Kailash to face Shiva.

Shiva meantime, knew of this and came to meet her – clad in his tiger skin, sporting snake ornaments, sacred white ash allover his body, wearing the sacred thread – he smiled knowingly at her. In that instant she realised who she was, the third breast dissapeared, the manly valor gave way to feminine shyness, as she realised it was Shiva her beloved, who had given half of himself for her – who was in front of her…

18 thoughts on “The metamorphosis of Thadathagai – the three breasted Queen of Madurai

  1. ஆஹா மீனாட்சியின் பெருமை என்னே

    இரு முலை கொண்ட தாய்மாரே கருணை தெய்வங்கள், மும்முலை கூடிய மீனாட்சி
    பெருங்கருணைத் தெய்வமல்லவா
    தன் குழந்தைகளுக்கு அதிக கருணை செய்ய எண்ணி மும்முலையோடு அவதரித்த மீனாட்சி நற்பெருங்க் கருணைத் தெய்வம் என்பதில் ஐய்யமில்லை,
    அங்கயற்கண்ணி மீனாட்சியான கதை மிகவும் அருமை, ஆஹா இந்த சிற்பத்தில்
    கண்கள் மூடியிருந்தாலும் அவற்றிலிருந்து கருணை பொங்கி வழிகிறது

  2. kangal irandaal un kangal irandaal ennai katti izhuthaai ………

    no more words to describe this beautiful portrayal,

    mukkannanin leelaigal moonru maarbagangal…. !!!

  3. மிக்க நன்றி திரு தமிழ்த்தேனீ அய்யா

    பல முறை தமிழில் பிழை திருத்தி தந்த உங்களுக்கு என்றும் கடமை பட்டுள்ளோம்


  4. Dear Mr. Subramanian,

    Thanks for the nice comments. These pictures are from a friend as I mentioned in the blog, but as long as its used for non commercial purposes and if you provide a link to this post, see no issues.

    After all the sculptor who sculpted it left no signature.


  5. Thank you so much for the kind gesture. In fact my Hindi post is ready and was frantically looking through my mail for your response. The net here is damn slow and it is with great difficulty that I could open your blog. God only knows if my comments go bacj to the server.

  6. சிலையும் தங்கள் வர்ணனையும் அருமை. திருவிளையாடல் புராணம் இணையத்தில் எங்கு கிடைக்கிறது.

  7. gud description. This sculpture is in puthu mandapam. when talking about puthu mandapam, We have lotsof beautiful sculptures. But the unfortunate thing is the mandapam is utilised as a commercial place. I really wonder how many beautiful sculpture would be hidden inside those tiny shops on either side of the mandapam. Also, the puthumandam shops are so important and a icon in madurai commercial world, there are few things which you will get only in those shops. I heard lot many times frm lot many persons, when asking for some rare piece of things, GO to Puthumandapam as an answeer. (for eg, one kind of ornamental wear that they use in village worships like samiyadal, you will get there. By someway, it is also helping out our traditions)But anyways, one good thing cannot be a threat to the other one right? Who will take care of this? 🙁 🙁 🙁

  8. True. It has many treasures and it takes lot of effort to even watch the willful defacement..hope someday we will realise the true value of our heritage treasures.


  9. kadambavanaj soozh koodarkanni madhan ambai, adarntha vizhi angayarkkanammai-nadantha nadaikkuvamai anna, nagaikkuvamai mullai, yidaikkuvamai yillai yini.
    — seerkaazhi arunaasalak kaviraayar.

    num pani sirakka vaazhththukkal

  10. kadambavanaj soozh koodarkanni madhan ambai, adarntha vizhi angayarkkanammai-nadantha nadaikkuvamai anna, nagaikkuvamai mullai, yidaikkuvamai yillai yini.
    — seerkaazhi arunaasalak kaviraayar.

    num pani sirakka vaazhththukkal

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